10 RULES WHEN DYEING YARN – HOW WE CREATE OUR COLORWAYS

Sea of SKEINO yarn

A sea of yarn. All of it hand dyed. Are there any rules a dyer has to follow?

We’re happy that SKEINO is known for superior quality yarns and colors. All of our colors are created by imagination. Sparks of inspiration came from many sources such as flowers and plants, weather, landscapes as well as music just to name a few.

All the colorways that we created over time needed to be documented and captured in recipes. It requires a lot of discipline to turn all that joy for creating colorways into solid documentation so we can repeat the colorways over and over again with as little fluctuation as possible. Nevertheless it’s a never-ending passion to create new colorways so I won’t complain about that!

Still there are basic rules you have to follow when creating a colorway. Here are 10 things (in no particular order) a dyer has to take into account when dyeing yarn:

  1. The deepness or lightness of a color – rich or pastel

The main difference lies of course in the amount of dyes used. More dye means a richer tone. Getting it just right is not always easy. Not all dyes will dilute equally so there’s a lot of experimenting, especially when a colorway should be created in a rich and pastel tone.

  1. Contrasting colors or not

This is important in two situations: The first is when dyeing a single skein. Color contrasts might be interesting and beautiful or they might destroy the whole thing. The other situation occurs when creating a more-than-one-skein-project. In our Miss Grace Shawl for example, we where experimenting for a long time when choosing the tones for each colorway in order to make sure that the contrasts would fit. Do this right and you will dye a unique colorway. Do it wrong and you might spoil the beautiful yarn or the finished piece.

Bjorn from SKEINO smiling wearing his apron

That’s me in my dyeing outfit. Ready to go!

  1. Color shades – staying in one color

This becomes important when creating gradient colorways. Again it requires skill and experience to create a recipe for a colorway that will slowly AND steadily create a gradient you will love.

  1. Neighboring colors – blue next to yellow will create green

Remember when painting with watercolors in school? This is not too far from it. Just like watercolors, our colors will fade into each other too. Most of the time this is just what you want. However you have to make sure that you don’t end up with a totally different color than you intended to create in the first place.

  1. Proportions of the color section – short or wide

This becomes important for the main appearance of a skein of yarn. A wide stripe of red makes a skein mainly red. After that, just smaller sections of additional colors might support the red or make the red less important. In any case a dyer should think about this before starting with her or his work.

a person dyeing SKEINO yarn

Dyeing yarn requires concentration and experience

  1. The dyeing technique

This is a most kept secret among dyers and we won’t get into too much detail either. Only so much can be revealed: Each dyeing technique will generate a different result. Use the wrong technique and you’ll end up with spots, uneven colors or colors that were intended to be darker or lighter than they came out. At SKEINO we sometimes create new techniques for certain types of yarn just to get this right!

  1. Plant fiber or animal fiber

Plant fibers need a different technique to be dyed than animal (protein) fibers. The dyes will work less bright and vibrant on cotton or linen. Acid dyes will dye any wool bright and vibrant and the dyed yarn is resisted to light and water. Here at SKEINO we are “acid dyers” and prefer animal fibers on our dye table. Several yarns are blends with plant fibers such as bamboo or Tencel. Because of the blended fiber, the yarn becomes a silvery shine and appears more pastel.

  1. Superwash or not?

Superwash yarns are treated to be cleaned in a washer. Because of this process the dyes are able to color a yarn much darker and brighter. Untreated yarns are also easy to dye, but with more dyes and the colors will be softer. The dyer must know the yarn before mixing the dyes.

  1. Personal taste

Every person has a different taste and there can be no criticism to that. As a dyer however you have to take into account that just because you don’t like light green, your customers might not feel the same way. A personal touch is great and wanted but at SKEINO we always try to cover a broad palette for our colorways.

  1. Fashion trends

If you have been knitting for a long time you know that the fashion industry is constantly repeating itself or, in a more positive way, it takes inspiration from the past. However there are seasons and there are trends that can’t be denied. A dyer does good to know these trends, deciding if they should follow them or ignore them.


All these aspects need to be brought together to create a new colorway. Sounds like a lot, huh? Here at SKEINO we try to cover all aspects, tastes and (some of) what the fashion industry tells us.

Besides all of this, we’re bold enough to have our very own colorways. We’re happy to say that our customers compliment what we create and so it’s easy to keep going.

Be assured that all our yarns and knitting kits were carefully designed to achieve the best result when being hand dyed.

I want to encourage all of you, to pick your most favorable color. Remember what you like to wear and how a new shawl would fit into this color range. You’re going to put all your skills and time into the new piece and we always like to know that you’re happy with your color choice.

So… What should we create next? Is there anything your would like to see? Let me know in the comment section!

Happy Knitting!

Bjorn

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7 thoughts on “10 RULES WHEN DYEING YARN – HOW WE CREATE OUR COLORWAYS

  1. I’d like to have a gradient with long color transitions in two different types of yarns. The yarns could be paired making really interesting fabric.

    • Thank you Marcia,
      There is just something like that in the making for the winter season. All muted colors in the black, white and beige areas. It won’t be two different types of yarns but super soft baby alpaca. If you haven’t done so yet, consider subscribing to our weekly newsletter on http://www.skeino.com so you won’t miss the kit when it’s published. Thx!

  2. At first, thank you for al the great work you do at the Skeino-facilitys.

    I’m hoping for a gradient sweater pattern, knit top down and with enough options to make sleeves longer and or bodice longer. I myself am a 6’4″ girl so finding an easy pattern to make perfect for me would definitly be nice.

    Thank you Skeino!

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